Being frugal and living within your means is essential if you want to save money and achieve financial freedom. However, there are certain lifestyle changes that may seem frugal, but actually aren’t. Some money-saving hacks may cost you more money in the long run than they save you, such as eating cheap food that lacks nutrition. Here are some of the ‘frugal’ habits I’ve given up because I realized they weren’t really going to save me money in the long run. 

Eating Cheap, Unhealthy Food 

Walmart usually has great clearance deals on frozen food. I’ve scored frozen dinners for $1 and huge bags of pizza rolls for over half off. However, after eating these meals and feeling bloated and sluggish, I’ve realized they aren’t really saving me money. A lot of frozen food is loaded with sodium, fat, and calories. Plus, frozen dinners don’t usually contain a lot of vegetables and nutrients. 

Hunting for clearance deals on frozen food feels frugal in the moment. But buying cheap, unhealthy groceries will probably cost me more in the long run than it saves me. Eating a poor diet can lead to all kinds of health problems like weight gain and diabetes. Watching my parent struggle to recover from two heart attacks and seeing the number on my scale go up convinced me to change my habits. 

Although fresh ingredients can be more costly, there are still deals to be found. Produce, dairy, and meat get marked down when they get too close to the expiration date. They’re still fine to eat as long as you cook them quickly or chuck them in the freezer. Instead of hunting for deals on packaged goods, I look for markdowns on fresh food. I also pay attention to my store’s weekly ad for sales on my favorite fruits and vegetables. In the summer, I garden to cut down on grocery costs. 

Driving to Multiple Stores to Get a Deal 

If you live in a rural area like I do where everything is spread out, sometimes driving around to multiple stores to get a deal isn’t frugal. Gas is costly, so it may make more sense to consolidate your shopping trips instead of traveling around town to hit up all the sales.

The few dollars you can save by going to multiple stores or a store that’s further away may not be worth all the gas you burn, so it’s important to do the math. I’ve even been going to the library less often because I realized used books from Amazon are cheaper than gas to get there. 

Skipping or Delaying Routine Maintenance 

The cost of routine car maintenance like oil changes has really gone up. I used to pay $70 for an oil change, but now I can’t find a shop in my area willing to do it for less than $90. Although it’s painful to part with $100 once a quarter, delaying or skipping oil changes decreases the lifespan of a vehicle’s engine. So it’s important to pay that cost now to prevent more expensive problems down the line.

Same with doctor’s appointments and dentist visits. Embarrassingly, I haven’t been to the dentist in a couple years, which is now causing dental problems. A few days ago, I realized part of one of my teeth had broken off. The appointment I have in two weeks to fix it (and any neglected cavities I have) is likely going to be expensive.

If I had gone to the dentist once or twice a year for preventative care, my tooth might still be intact. So even if you feel fine now, don’t skip your yearly physicals! Delaying healthcare until you’re in pain will cost you more money in the long run. 

Buying the Cheapest Possible Item 

If you need to replace a household item, buying the cheapest option will probably cost you money in the end. Although you can save a few bucks by going for the least expensive replacement on Amazon, the quality probably won’t be the best. If the items you buy break prematurely, you’ll end up spending more money to replace them than if you had just invested in a better version from the start. 

I recently learned this lesson with my microwave. When I moved into my house, I bought the cheapest microwave I could find for $30. Under a year later, it started sparking when I tried to use it, so I had to replace it. Instead of buying another cheap microwave that would probably malfunction, I upgraded to a $90 model with excellent reviews. It’s still going strong over a year later.

Now instead of sorting by lowest price on Amazon, I try to find items that strike a good balance between cost and quality. I also use rebate apps and rewards credit cards to get cash back on purchases. 

Buying in Bulk 

Buying in bulk is another frugal habit that doesn’t always save me money. I’m only buying groceries for two people, and we can only eat so much. Sometimes it makes more sense to buy the small bag of flour that we’ll actually be able to get through, even if the unit price is higher than the big package. 

When you see a great deal on bulk items, make sure you’ll actually be able to use it all before the expiration date. At the end of the day, you’re not saving any money by buying in bulk if you have to throw away half the package. 

What are some seemingly frugal habits you adopted that didn’t actually save you money? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Vicky Monroe
Vicky Monroe

Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.